Understanding water authorisation requirements

There are special requirements that apply to the resources industry with regards to underground water.

Water entitlements for surface water and overland flow water are managed under the same processes that apply to all other water entitlement holders.

Underground water

To understand the requirements for underground water, it's important to distinguish between associated underground water and other underground water (known as 'non-associated water').

Associated water

Associated water is groundwater that you take (or interfere with) in the process of carrying out an authorised activity. 'Authorised activity' means any activity that is authorised by your resource authority.

Examples of associated water include water removed from coal seams to release coal seam gas or dewatering mine pits to allow continued mining activity.

Associated water is managed through the underground water management framework in Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000. This is administered by the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation.

Other underground water (non-associated water)

Other underground water used in resource projects is managed in the same way as surface water and overland flow water (see below).

This includes, for example, water taken from a bore or a watercourse specifically for mining camps or dust suppression.

Surface water and overland flow

Surface water and overland flow water (as well as non-associated underground water) are managed under the same processes and rules that apply to other water entitlement holders (e.g. irrigators, landholders).

These processes are administered under Chapter 2 of the Water Act 2000 by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water.

Transitional arrangements

At the end of 2016, legislation was amended to ensure requirements were consistent across all resource authorities:

  • mineral and coal authorities (mining leases and mineral development licences) now have the statutory right to take associated water under their resource authority (underground water right), just as for petroleum and gas authorities
  • petroleum and gas authorities are now required to obtain a licence or permit for non-associated underground water if they are located in a regulated underground water area, just as for mineral and coal authorities.

Transitional requirements were introduced to allow resource authority holders to adjust to the new regulations and to ensure all resource applications are subject to the same level of scrutiny regarding their groundwater impacts.

Transitional requirements are identified in the following pages of this guide.